People are often surprised to learn that English is my native language. I suppose being born in Vancouver and living there for twelve years before the Exile isn’t a sufficient precondition for having some mastery of the language, not when you have brown skin and black hair and the stylishness of Bill Gates in his late twenties.

Christ, people, you think I’m FOB?

— although a few allies have commented that my speech is bookish. Like, is that a bad thing?

It’s true, however, that I occasionally stumble over pronouncing some words that I’ve read but never heard enunciated, or fail to remember how they sound. In my limited recollections, one event in college shines. In Sudikoff 212, I said to the prof: “I don’t mean to harangoo” — rhyme with kangaroo — “you.”

“You don’t mean to what?

“Uh.” My eyes narrowed. “Aitch. Ai. Ar. Ai. En. Gee. You. Ee.”


“Yeah, that’s the word. Never, uh, heard it said before.”

He laughed. I grimaced.

Eleven years later, I’ve had similar mishaps with language. Inventory — apparently, it’s “in-vin-tor-ree” and not “in-vent-ory”. And then there’s the matter of “arugula”.

I don’t think I even heard of arugula until last year; perhaps I didn’t pay attention. I like greens, but one green leafy edible is much the same as another. Except iceberg lettuce. Which tastes like ass.*

What finally caused me to pay attention was the wild boar bolognese at Restaurant Zoe. At the time, the preparation included a pasta rolled with arugula, and the spiciness was delightful.

A few months later, an idea for a salad lit my mind, but I wasn’t sure what green stuff to use, until I wandered through Trader Joe’s produce department. “I will use,” I cried out to anyone who would listen, “arugula.”

“A what?”


She looked at me, puzzled. I spelt it out.

“Oh, a-roog-yoo-la.”



“Fuck it. I like the way I say it better.” Over the next five days, though, I chanted the word under my breath wherever I went, whether at work or at home, alternating between the two pronounciations.

I think I’ve got it now.

*If you must ask, how do you know this? You’re much too young to be reading this weblog. Please go here and never return. Bye.